I agree with you regarding the literalness of translation. When I started work on mine (about twelve years ago) it was in order to have to hand a fairly literal version of Thucydides which recorded, for my future reference, my own 'take' on the text, particularly with regard to the many problematic passages. As I've worked on it since then through successive revisions, I've often found it necessary to move somewhat farther away from faithfulness to the words in order to achieve faithfulness to (what I believe to be) the actual meaning. It's been a fascinating experience, but I need to bring it to a conclusion of some sorts, so I've promised myself that my current revision (I've just started Book VII) will be my last - at least for now!Qimmik wrote:If you're actually translating T., you have to commit yourself to one reading or the other! Although here I'm not sure you really need to be so exact, and in any case you can't translate T. or any other ancient Greek author on a word-by-word basis. Greek is so different from English--it's not even like translating from a modern European language such as French, German or even Russian. You really have to paraphrase heavily to produce readable English. T. is one of the most difficult Greek prose authors, but others require paraphrasing to arrive at acceptable English, too. From what I've seen of published translations from a variety of languages, translators, even good ones, find ways to conceal their uncertainties.
I'm happy to help out when I can. I'm not a professional scholar or teacher, but I started studying Greek in secondary school when I was 14 (53 years ago), my undergraduate degree was in Classics, and over the years, I've done a fair amount of reading ancient Greek, both poetry and prose, as an avocation.
I studied Classics at university back in the '70s, but then largely let it lie fallow for twenty years, so you've done a good deal better than I have in terms of keeping things going.
Returning to the passage in hand, I'm now rendering it:
'And so by what rational argument could we ourselves shrink from this enterprise, or with what reasonable excuse to our allies there could we decline to help them?'
In other words, I've now opted to take τί εἰκὸς as applying to both clauses, as I was impressed by your argument that it should probably be taken as a unit.
Thanks to you and pster for your help with this knotty puzzle.